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Energy Vault appoints CFO

Energy Vault has appointed Michael Beer as chief financial officer.

Energy Vault Holdings, Inc., a provider of sustainable grid-scale energy storage solutions, announced today the appointment of Michael Beer as Chief Financial Officer.

Beer will replace Jan Kees van Gaalen, who has served in the role since November 2022 and plans to retire. The appointment is effective April 15, 2024, the company said in a news release.

Energy Vault offers proprietary gravity-based storage, battery storage, and green hydrogen energy storage technologies.

Prior to Energy Vault, Beer served as Chief Financial Officer for FreeWire Technologies, Inc. (FreeWire), an industry leader in ultra-fast EV charging, battery storage and energy management solutions, since 2021. Prior to FreeWire, he served as Head of Financial Strategy & Investor Relations at Luminar Technologies, Inc (Nasdaq: LAZR), culminating in the company’s public listing.

Before Luminar, Beer spent seven years at Citigroup Inc., serving as a Senior Research Analyst in Hong Kong and Singapore, covering the transportation, logistics and infrastructure space across Asia. Previously, he covered the North American transportation sector at Bear Stearns and Wolfe Research in New York. Beer also currently serves on the Board of Directors at UK-based venture builder, Cambridge Future Tech Ltd. (CFT) and is a Partner at Vest Coast Capital.

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Fluor and Carbfix collaborating on CCS solutions

The companies look to partner with clients looking for end-to-end CO2 reduction. An MOU enables the two companies to pursue CO2 removal projects like direct air capture and bioenergy CCS.

Fluor Corporation has signed an MOU with Carbfix, the CO2 mineral storage operator, to pursue CCS solutions, according to a news release.

Together the companies look to decarbonize hard-to-abate industries like steel, aluminum and cement.

“The companies will leverage their respective expertise to partner with clients looking for end-to-end CO2 reduction,” the release states. “The MOU also enables the two companies to pursue CO2 removal projects such as direct air capture and bioenergy carbon capture and storage.”

Fluor will provide its proprietary carbon capture technology and EPC. Carbfix’ technology dissolves CO2 in water and injects it into porous basaltic rock formations, where natural processes cause the CO2 to form stable carbonate minerals within two years.

Carbfix has applied its method of turning CO2 into stone underground for more than a decade in Iceland. The company currently captures and mineralizes one-third of the CO2 emissions from Iceland’s largest geothermal power plant, with the goal of increasing this rate to 95% by 2025.

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The clean energy project of the future looks something like … a refinery?

An optimized clean energy plant of the future might hinge on biofuels upgrading with green hydrogen, in a scenario that provides optionality to the facility operator, similar to a downstream oil refinery that manages its output based on market signals.

A new research note from Longspur Research examines the potential for hydrogen in a decarbonized economy, noting biofuels upgrading with green hydrogen as a promising path forward for clean fuels developers.

The note calls for realism with respect to where hydrogen does and does not make sense, but  acknowledges that long-term demand for justifiable use cases for hydrogen could amount to 447 million tons annually, with the main opportunities related to projects in ammonia, methanol, biomethane, grid balancing and refueling. 

One of the standout use cases? Upgrading biofuels using green hydrogen to enhance output or make derivatives like methanol.

“The clean energy project of the future may be an integrated project with a grid connected solar farm powering an electrolyzer with battery storage and with hydrogen produced sold to the market or upgrading the output from a biomethane or biomethanol plant,” reads the note, which was published yesterday. “This brings the operator lots of optionality with real time optimization into multiple energy markets including baseload power, peak load power, peak power, hydrogen and biofuel, with carbon credits on the side and perhaps pure oxygen as a by-product.”

The note continues, “It will be more like a downstream oil refinery managing its output mix in real time to meet the needs of varying markets.”

At the Varenne Carbon Recycling facility in Quebec, Canada, for instance, the county’s largest electrolyzer deployment so far is co-located with a biomass gasification plant to make green methanol. The project is backed by Proman, Enerkem, Shell, and Suncor.

In the case of methanol, the gasification of carbohydrate typically results in a syngas with equal parts hydrogen and carbon monoxide. Methanol, however, requires twice as much hydrogen as carbon monoxide, so adding hydrogen from an electrolyzer can increase methanol output from the same amount of feedstock.

Similarly, anaerobic digestion production can be combined with green hydrogen to double the amount of biomethane produced from the same amount of feedstock “and we see this growing as a source of demand for hydrogen production,” the note reads.

Anaerobic digestion produces biomethane and CO2, thus putting the excess CO2 through a methanation process with hydrogen produces more methane. 

“Note that in both cases” – methanol and anaerobic digestion – “the amount of resulting fuel is maximized for the biomass input and, unlike pure e-fuels, no carbon capture is required other than the initial biomass photosynthesis.”

In addition to the Varennes project, Norwegian Hydrogen AS is developing biogas projects co-located with wind and electrolysis, with a first project in Denmark. KBR has launched PureM, an advanced green methanol technology that combines green hydrogen with CO2 from biogenic sources or carbon capture.

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Fast fission tech co. signs PPA LOI with Diamondback Energy

Oklo, a nuclear fuel recycling startup with backing from Sam Altman, has signed an LOI for a power purchase agreement with Diamondback Energy for a project in the Permian Basin.

Oklo Inc., a fast fission clean power technology and nuclear fuel recycling company backed by Sam Altman, has reached an agreement with Diamondback Energy Inc., the largest independent producer headquartered in the shale-oil region to collaborate on a long-term Power Purchase Agreement, according to a news release.

The LOI signed by Diamondback outlines its intent to enter into a 20-year PPA with Oklo. The proposed agreement focuses on engaging Oklo’s Aurora powerhouses to supply reliable and emission-free electricity to Diamondback’s operations in the Permian Basin.

According to the terms of the LOI, Oklo intends to license, build, and operate powerhouses capable of generating 50 MW of electric power to Diamondback E&P LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Diamondback near Midland, Texas.

The LOI outlines options to renew and extend the potential PPA for an additional 20-year term. Oklo’s powerhouse designs are intended to be able to operate for 40 years, and because of Oklo’s design-build-own-operate business model, potential customers like Diamondback are expected to be able to purchase power without complex ownership issues or other capital requirements.

“By developing and providing a low-cost, high-reliability, and emission-free energy source, Oklo is poised to help meet the growing energy requirements of operators like Diamondback,” added DeWitte. The collaboration between Oklo and Diamondback represents a significant step towards emissions reductions and supporting national energy security by providing reliable access to electricity to power domestic energy operations.

On July 11, 2023, Oklo and AltC Acquisition Corp. (NYSE: ALCC) announced that they have entered into a definitive business combination agreement that upon closing would result in the combined company to be listed on the New York Stock Exchange under the ticker symbol “OKLO.”

AltC is the SPAC of Sam Altman, the CEO of OpenAI.

The 2023 deal valued Oklo at $850m. It currently trades with a $660m equity market cap.

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Hydra Energy raising equity and debt capital for hydrogen refueling infrastructure

The hydrogen-as-a-service provider for commercial trucking fleets is pursuing an equity raise that will unlock a debt facility for scaling up hydrogen refueling infrastructure in Western Canada.

Hydra Energy, a hydrogen-as-a-service provider for commercial trucking fleets, is in the midst of a CAD 14m equity capital raise.

The Vancouver-based company is pursuing the equity raise in support of its Prince George hydrogen fueling station, which is set to be operational in 2024 and would be the largest in the world, Hydra CEO Jessica Verhagan.

The equity portion of the financing is needed to unlock an additional CAD 150m debt facility to complete initial scale-up of the company’s planned hydrogen corridor along Highway 16 in Western Canada, Verhagan added.

Verhagan said the company is not working with a financial advisor on the capital raise but could issue RFPs for advisory services in the future. She declined to name the provider of the proposed debt facility, apart from clarifying that it was not government-sponsored.

“To date, Hydra has been signing up commercial fleets and building out its initial hydrogen refuelling infrastructure throughout Western Canada, but the company is about to announce expansion throughout the rest of the country via licensing to a national fossil fuel distributor looking to extend its low-carbon alternative fuel offerings,” the executive said via email.

Hydra’s target market to date has been the roughly 5 million Class 8 trucks within North America, Verhagan said, with the company aiming to “conservatively” capture 1% of that market by 2030 through commercial discussions already underway. Hydra is also exploring expansion into the UK as well as Europe, Australia, and the Middle East.

“Hydra’s initial focus has been on proving out its Hydrogen-as-a-ServiceTM (HaaSTM) template which includes the company providing its proprietary hydrogen-diesel, co-combustion conversion kits to commercial fleets at zero cost (in exchange for long-term hydrogen fuel contracts at diesel equivalent prices) as well as an initial hydrogen refuelling station to service 65 Hydra- converted trucks in Prince George, B.C.,” she said.

Verhagan said the company will announce its first electrolysis partner for the Prince George hydrogen refueling station early next year. The station will be able to refuel – as quickly as diesel – up to 24 Hydra-converted trucks each hour across four bays. The station will provide hydrogen from two onsite, 5 MW electrolyzers powered with electricity from BC Hydro.

“The adoption of Hydra’s technology really comes down to availability of low carbon hydrogen – showing fleets it’s possible to go green cost-effectively – and government support to utilize hydrogen to reduce trucking emissions right now,” Verhagan said.

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Exclusive: Wisconsin RNG portfolio for sale with large renewables portfolio

A major Canadian utility is auctioning off four Wisconsin RNG assets as part of a larger renewables selldown. The subsidiary at auction has previously indicated that it would take part in Northeastern US hydrogen development.

Algonquin Power & Utilities is selling a package of four renewable natural gas assets, totaling 532 mmbtu, in Wisconsin as part of a larger renewables auction, according to two sources familiar with the matter.

JP Morgan is advising on the process, codenamed Project Power, the sources said.

The process comprises mostly operational onshore wind (2,325 MW) and solar (670 MW), along with an 8 GW development pipeline across 10 power markets, according to a teaser seen by ReSource. The renewable assets are collectively known as Liberty under the Algonquin banner.

The pipeline includes 1,600 mmbtu of RNG. The operational RNG assets reached COD in 2022.

Algonquin did not respond to requests for comment. JP Morgan declined comment.

The Wisconsin assets are apparently the former Sandhill Advanced Biofuels projects, which were acquired by Algonquin in 2022.

When that acquisition was made, it was announced that Liberty had signed on as a “hydrogen ecosystem partner” in the multi-state Northeast Regional Clean Hydrogen Hub. That hub ultimately was not selected by the US department of Energy for hub funding.

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Renewable hydrogen developer to launch series A round next month

A Colorado-based renewable hydrogen developer has hired an advisor and will launch a series A funding round next month.

NovoHydrogen, the Colorado-based renewable hydrogen developer, will launch a series A capital raise in the middle of March to take on a new investor for project development and hiring, CEO Matt McMonagle said in an interview.

The company has hired GreenFront Energy Partners to run the process, McMonagle said.

NovoHydrogen builds its projects onsite with customers, as close to end use as possible, he said. The company serves transportation (heavy road transport, shipping and aviation), industrial (cement, glass, metal, steel, food, etc.) and power (peaking power and diesel generator replacement). Most of Novo’s customers are users of grey hydrogen looking to decarbonize. In the case of cement, they are looking to replace diesel for their trucks and coal and natural gas for their kilns.

“We first look to see if we can put our projects on our customer sites and make it there,” McMonagle said. “If we can’t do that, we’ll do offsite, but we still try to be as close to customers as possible to minimize that midstream component or distribution component.”

About 30 projects are in development in the US, ranging from a few megawatts to hundreds of megawatts, McMonagle said. NovoHydrogen’s most active markets are the West coast, Northeast, Appalachia, Texas and the Rocky Mountains, though the company is not geographically constrained.

The company aims to begin construction on its first projects by the end of this year, possibly early next year, McMonagle said. The first project could reach COD in 2024.

NovoHydrogen recently announced that it has closed its seed funding round and appointed four executives to its board of directors. Each of those executives represent an investor that participated in the seed round, McMonagle said.

The new board appointees are: Jeremy Avenier, an active investor at Ohmium International; Peyton Boswell, managing partner at Woodfield Renewable Partners; Bruno Franco, partner at Pacífico Energia and managing partner at PWR Capital; and Joseph Malchow, a managing partner at Hanover (a Silicon Valley VC), board member and investor in Enphase and board member and investor in Archaea.

More money

“We will certainly need more money as our projects mature,” McMonagle said. “I do not have the hundreds of millions of dollars on my balance sheet to build these projects.”

An ideal investor will bring accretive capabilities in hydrogen, in a field like value chain equipment or delivery, to the table, McMonagle said.

NovoHydrogen plans to be a long-term owner-operator of its projects, McMonagle said. That is an important point for customers: that the company is not going to sell the project and not care how the next owner operates.

“We want to earn future business from these customers,” McMonagle said, adding that most of them are transitioning piecemeal.

NovoHydrogen and TigerGenCo in November said they would advance development of green hydrogen capacity to reduce reliance on natural gas at the Bayonne Energy Center located in New Jersey. NovoHydrogen will develop and operate the hydrogen production facility to reduce Bayonne’s carbon emissions.

TigerGen owns the power plant and is the offtaker in that project. Ohmium International is providing the PEM electrolyzers in that project. McMonagle said the company may use other electrolyzer providers for future projects.

The company is also a partner in the Aliance for Clean Hydrogen Energy Systems (ARCHES) for the California DOE Hydrogen Hub submission.

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